(Internews Pandemic Media Mentor Christophe Hitayezu helped organize this online workshop promoting public access in Rwanda to fact-based COVID-19 information.)
Sixty-six (66) journalists from Rwanda have been trained on promoting public access to fact-based information during the Covid-19 pandemic. The virtual training workshop, held on 19 June 2020, was organized by Rwanda Media Commission (RMC) and supported by UNESCO. It aimed at equipping journalists with requisite skills to effectively serve as frontline workers during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The workshop was organized in partnership with Rwanda Media Network Against HIV/AIDS and for Health Promotion (ABASIRWA), Internews, and Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC). Participants were drawn from different journalist cadres, including: reporters, editors, producers, and citizen journalists from public, private and community media networks in Rwanda.
Rwanda has suffered the spread of false information and rumors on social media platforms related to the pandemic. This has hindered containment of the virus, which requires dissemination of factual, verified, scientific information by the public. The training covered topics including: best practices in health reporting, media response to rumors and misinformation, the pandemic and community engagement, social media sourcing and fact-checking, and ethical principles for journalism practice in Rwanda.
In his opening remarks, the Executive secretary of RMC, Mr. Emmanuel Mugisha, stated that the training was timely for the media sector to debunk, address, and combat myths, disinformation and misinformation related to the pandemic in Rwanda
"It is important to customize health journalists’ skills to the new norm of working and responding to COVID- 19 pandemic through journalists training" — Mr. Emmanuel Mugisha, Executive secretary of RMC
Mr. Mugisha added that considering its important role in society, the media is expected to play a vital role in informing, educating, communicating and engaging the public to adhere and implement various measures prescribed by Government and World Health Organization in response to the pandemic in Rwanda.
One of the participants, Ms. Immaculée Mukazayire, noted that the training was timely and an essential improvement for her professional career
"As a journalist, I need to continue to learn new skills and methods to be able to deliver factual, and reliable information to the public as research on COVID-19 continues. I need new skills on fact checking and health reporting, to enable me do my work professionally and meet real needs of my audiences" — Ms. Immaculée Mukazayire, Participant at the workshop
Mr. Evariste Nsengimana, who also participated in the training noted that through the training, he has appreciated his role as a journalist in responding to the pandemic
"I have learnt that, as a frontline worker in this pandemic, it is my responsibility to provide accurate and fact-based information to my audiences. This training is very important as it has also provided us with an opportunity besides reporting, to also gain knowledge about the ongoing pandemic itself in Rwanda and Globally" — Mr. Evariste Nsengimana; Participant at the workshop
Mr. Jean Baptiste Micomyiza said that the training will enable him to identify and debunk myths and misinformation related to the pandemic.
"We were taught how Covid-19 patients recover, and that there is no cure for this Virus yet. I learned that physicians treat symptoms and help patients develop their immune system to use all its potential to kick out the virus" — Mr. Jean Baptiste Micomyiza
Rwanda reported her first case on March 14. As of June 22, 2020, the country has 728 total confirmed cases, 359 of which have recovered and two succumbed. This workshop was part of UNESCO’s response to the pandemic by supporting media and governments in promoting reliable, fact-based information and deciphering of COVID-19 disinformation through campaigns, MIL CLICKS and GAP-MIL initiatives. This will contribute towards countering disinformation on COVID-19 and promoting healthy behaviors, as a fundamental means to stand together and tighten bonds of shared humanity during the pandemic.